The American Music Awards: Tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC

Good afternoon everyone! I’m Mike Tyminski and it’s awards show night again, which means that I’m here with you to liveblog tonight’s American Music Awards ceremony on ABC! The show is set to have a bevy of performances tonight including Katy Perry handling the opener while Miley Cyrus is set to close out the show. The whole show is hosted by Pitbull, who will also be performing his newest hit “Timber” with Kesha.

On that note, I’ll be back at 8 eastern to begin live coverage.

7:55 PM: I’m back, and in five minutes Katy Perry will hit the stage to start off music’s equivalent to the Golden Globes. Unlike the Golden Globes however, the AMA’s are literally a popularity contest, as the awards are determined by a poll of the music buying populace.

In addition to Perry and Cyrus, among the numerous performers hitting the stage tonight are Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Imagine Dragons, and Lady Gaga.

I’ll be running commercial break to commercial break, so update in between every segment for more news!

8:00 PM: We open with Katy Perry, as promised, singing her latest hit “Unconditionally” to a full blown Japanese motif. It felt truly hit and miss to me, as it seemed like there were some sound issues initially and a strobe light segment involving Perry and her umbrella came off on TV very unspectactularly. However, the full performance built itself pretty well, with strong visuals elsewhere, including a cool effect of raining cherry blossoms.

After the usual introduction, our host Pitbull entered, in true Pitbullian fashion, said a bunch of jibberish and repeating the same word over and over again. He welcomes to the show, sounding thankful to the American Dream, before bringing out four female dancers to shake their booty.

Following the short monologue, Taylor Swift emerges to give the award for best Pop/Rock male artist:

The Nominees are: Bruno Mars, Robin Thicke, and Justin Timberlake

The Winner Is: Justin Timberlake

(In a change from prior liveblogs, I’m skipping talking about speeches unless something notable happens since the producers have had a very quick trigger as of late).

8:26 PM: Our second segment leads off with yet another performance, this time by teen idols One Direction. This time around we get a fairly low key performance in which 1D is playing “Story of my Life” in front of a mob of wooden statues that are arranged to look like a million arms of a million fans. While this performance didn’t seem to elevate to the same level as the Perry performance at the start of the show, it still seemed considerably better than most of the performances we got out of this years Grammys.

The voice over announcer then kicks it over to Ariana Grande, who busts out a few bars of “The Way” before starting a new single, a pop ballad named “Tattooed Heart”. This seemed like a potentially star making performance for Grande, who belted out the song with a booming voice that those only familiar with “The Way” will not recognize. The music was the clear star of the performance as it was blocked out simply, with Grande performing in a sparkling red dress with the only visible backing being a small doo-wop ensemble deep in the background.

8:38 PM: Marc Anthony and Zoey Saldana are out to present the award for best Soul and R&B female. Anthony seemed almost comically wooden trying to read off the teleprompter, overforcing every remark.

The Nominees are: Ciara, Alicia Keys, Rihanna

And the winner is: Rihanna

From there the VO guy brings us to Imagine Dragons, who start with “Demons” on a cool dark set with a ton of smoke. Vocally this sounds way different from the album, being brought down in tone quite a bit from the album. We then a ton a large percussion break once the song slips into Radioactive, with every band member participating in the drum breakdown. Imagine Dragons acquitted themselves well on the spectacle and instruments, but vocally this performance was kind of a mess.

From there we get Kristin Bell and Chris Daughtry, out to present Best Country Album.

The Nominees Are: Luke Bryan, Crash My Party, Florida Georgia Line, Here’s To The Good Times, Taylor Swift, Red.

(Is it me or is one of these things not like the others?)

And the winner is: Taylor Swift, Red. 

8:50 PM: In what screams odd couple pairing, Michael Bolton and A-Kon are here to present the award for favorite Rap/Hip-Hop album

The Nominees Are: Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail, Kendrick Lamar Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis The Heist.

And the winner is: The Heist

From here they kicked it to Macklemore in Miami, who brings up MLK and the Trayvon Martin case, before asking people to fight against racism.

Naya Rivera and Maya Mitchell now come out to introduce Ke$ha and Pitbull, who are performing my fall earworm, Timber. In front of a clearly disco infused scene we get a surprisingly non-trashy Ke$ha, before Pitbull emerges from our disco ball. The sound issues continue from the opening performance (I feel like Ke$ha got cut off from one of her choruses), but are exacerbated by the backing track awkwardly flipping between having backing vocals and letting the performers cut loose. The camera angles themselves are pretty standard issue except for a cool shot through one of the lower dance pods out there. Overall not too shabby and still better than your average awards show in terms of performances.

9:07 PM: Dave Grohl and Joan Jett are out to present the award to the favorite alternative rock artist.

The Nominees Are: Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, and Mumford and Sons

And the winner is: Imagine Dragons!

We then kick back to Pitbull who rushes and stumbles over the teleprompted lines before presenting the award for favorite Latin Music Artist.

The Nominees are: Marc Anthony, Prince Royce, Romeo Santos

And the winner is: Marc Anthony!

After Anthony’s quick speech, Heidi Klum emerges to introduce Justin Timberlake

Timberlake is here to perform a cool new arena rock sounding track titled “Drink You Away”, with a full backing group with horns, multiple guitars, and a backing choir intimately crowded together in the front of the stage. As is usual on these sorts of shows, Timberlake is a complete revelation, as the performance meshes together the catchy sing along song (with the catchy sing along stage presence) with a strong visual sense. Performance of the night so far, and tough to top.

9:21 PM: Kelly Osboune and Nicole Richie are out to present the award for best Pop/Rock album taking a second to bring up the history of the award.

And the nominees are: One Direction, Take me Home, Taylor Swift Red, Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience. 

The winners are: One Direction, Take Me Home

The Ceremonies are out to introduce Florida Georgia Line and Nelly to perform their song “Cruise”.

Florida Georgia Line get the relative no-frills treatment, merely getting a video wall as opposed to the smoke, falling cherry blossoms and everything else we’ve seen so far tonight. “Cruise” eventually merges into Nelly’s “Ride”. Continuing a string of strong performances both Nelly and Florida-Georgia Line looked like they were having a blast in each other’s sandbox, with Nelly rocking some serious twang and the country duo enjoying playing backup on “Ride”.

Daisy Fuentes and new Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis here to announce the winner for best new artist of the year

The nominees are: Phillip Phillips, Imagine Dragons, Ariana Grande, Florida Georgia Line and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

The Winner is: Ariana Grande

Grande gives the first notable speech having to rush through her speech, ultimately pulling a list out of her dress before thanking herparentsdanschneidernickelodeonthelabelandsixotherthingsinineseconds.

9:38 pm: Bill Maher is here to present Rihanna with the Icon Award. Maher brings up her particular relevance in the digital age, before a video package bringing up career highlights appears on the screen. The video package leads way to Rihanna’s performance which involves her walking onstage from a distance opening into “Diamond”. While Rihanna did an amazing job singing the song, the production elements felt off, as the entire performance started in complete darkness, but never progressed into the light show, instead giving off a more Adele-style vibe. This felt like a shame, as the Icon Award makes it seem like it’s her night but the production never kicked into high gear, instead forcing an understated vibe on the whole matter.

Rihanna walks over to Maher, before flipping it to Jay-Z, who gives a prerecorded statement. In a heartfelt moment, Rihanna’s mother, Donna Fenti emerges to present the Icon Award to Rihanna. Rihanna accepts graciously, giving an equally heartfelt speech, joking about her childhood voice and her eagerness to move from Barbados to the US and start her career. Rihanna was great here, it’s just a shame that the whole production felt off, from Bill Maher hosting the segment (because when I want heartwarming and reverential I want the guy who hosted Politically Incorrect and hasn’t moved from that tack in 20 years), to the understated production.

9:51 PM: Ciara and Paulina Gretzky are here to present the award for best Soul and R+B artist.

The nominees are: Miguel, Robin Thicke, and Justin Timberlake

And the winner is: (Sarcastic spoiler space)


Timberlake goes into standup mode, discussing how cute Rihanna’s mom is and the same confusion about how one can win awards for best Pop/Rock and best Soul/R+B artist in the same year with the same album.

Pitbull’s here, and he cuts it to live via satellite in Miami for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performing “Can’t Hold Us”. Since it’s clearly looped in from their tour, i’m not gonna worry about the production value since that’s clearly out of the producer’s hands (unless the feed breaks). It is nice to see they got feature artist Ray Dalton out to sing the chorus live, since his rendition there is easily the catchiest thing about that song. It’s also very cool that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis use a full backing band, I think that’s something that more hip-hop artist should have more often. The final highlight of this rendition is Macklemore opting to crowd surf during the breakdown which like most of this performance, seemed super cool.

Voice-over guy is back to bring out Fall Out Boy, who are out to nominate the favorite Country Female Artist.

The nominees are: Taylor Swift, Amanda Lambert, Taylor Swift

The winner is: Taylor Swift!  (It’s actually starting to bug me that they’re just nominating random top 40 people for genre awards — country, like rock these days is a niche and it’s kind of a backhanded slap in the face to the people who have to go through mid sized venues night after night to be the best in their genre only to end up getting passed over by something that’s in heavy rotation on Z-100, but that’s me).

10:06 PM: After showing a quick video on the “Queen of Cuba” Celia Cruz, we head over to Jennifer Lopez, who is here to perform a tribute to the Latin legend.  The whole performance has a ballroom feel to it, but had the sort of big performance progression you tend to expect from awards shows, with multiple costume changes from a more classical dress to a colorful flowing carnival affair ending in a fairly skimpy sparkly piece that left little to the imagination. This is closer to what I expected from Rihanna’s centerpiece performance than the drab affair we ended up receiving.

Alicia Silverstone and Nathan Fillion are here to present the award for Single of the Year.

and the nominees are: Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly “Cruise”, Robin Thicke ft. Pharell and T.I. “Blurred Lines”, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz “Thrift Shop”.

And the winner is: “Cruise”

Sarah Silverman appears to present the award for best Soul and R+B album of the year,  and takes a comical swipe at the notion of Timberlake and Thicke getting a ton of Soul and R+B nomintions.

The nominees are: Rihanna Like a Diamond, Robin Thicke Blurred Lines, and Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience.  

And the winner is: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience.

Justin’s second award speech begins with him dropping what will likely be the line of the night: “Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee this is the first time I can say I’ve been racially profiled by a white woman”.

10:23 PM: We return to Jennifer Hudson introducing A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera performing “Say Something”. We get a similar layout and production to the Rihanna performance, however this time around the darkness laden, orchestra-heavy layout makes more sense, with “Say Something” being the sort of moderately depressing ballad that tends to thrive with the haunting performances those intimate visuals ultimately provide.

We then get a quick intro from voice-over guy who introduces Kendrick Lamar in short order. He’s performing “Swimming Pools” surrounded by laser lights and some colorful backing video. It was the sort of loose performance that made for a great come down from the ultra-depressing “Say Something”

Austin Mahone and Kendall Jenner are here to present the award for favorite Electronic/Dance music artist

And the Nominees are: Avicii, Daft Punk, Calvin Harris, and Zedd

And the winner is: Avicii!

The winner is: Avicii

10:34 PM: Jeremy Renner is here to introduce Lady Gaga who is performing her new single “Do What You Want” with R. Kelly. This performance doesn’t hesitate with the schmaltz, opening with a phone call to President R. Kelly that sounds straight out of “Trapped in the Closet”, before Gaga walks over to the office to burst into the song. As opposed to Lady Gaga’s opener at the VMA’s, this performance had the levity that Gaga had circa before Born this Way when she was running around in Meat Dresses for no good reason….and as I say that, the fun part screeches away when Gaga randomly veers into the dramatic in the last 15 seconds while negative headlines of her are displayed on the video screens.

Andrew McCutchen and Jaimie Alexander are out to announce the nominees for Country artist of the year. It’s moderately amazing to watch presenters stumble over heartfelt congratulations the way Jaimie did over congratulating McCutchen on his NL MVP award.

The nominees are: Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, and Hunter Hayes

And the winner is: Luke Bryan

10:48 PM: The cast of Shark Tank is out to announce the winner of favorite rock/pop group.

The nominees are: Imagine Dragons, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and One Direction

The winner is: One Direction

Lady Antebellum, winners of favorite country group are out to nominate Luke Bryan. Bryan is performing “That’s My Kind of Night”. He gets the similar laser treatment we saw from Lamar, but flips between red and white, which is an awesome effect until the camera closes in on the drummer and you realize the camera can’t see through the light. As has become an awards show tradition, we get the obligatory Taylor Swift rocking out shot. I’m not a country music fan in the least, but Bryan seemed to be on his performance a-game and the energy was certainly appreciated to what’s been an up and down third hour.

Voice over guy then sends it to TLC, whom is performing “Waterfalls” with Li’l Mama in place of the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. It’s interesting because they have a look that seemed closer to the late 90’s “No Scrubs” era but stuck to their first hit. Li’l Mama nails the rapping middle section for what is a nice throwback performance that hit all the right nostalgia notes. Visually it stuck mostly to some water oriented visuals, but it filled a nice void as the penultimate performance.

11:00 PM: 2 Chainz and Jaden Smith are here to introduce Miley Cyrus’ performance of Wrecking Ball. The opening is suitably weird with Cyrus rocking a two piece bathing suit looking dealie in front of a video screen with lip-synching cat floating through space progressing into explosions through the chorus.

Pitbull is back to announce the award for artist of the year

The nominees are: Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

And the winner is: Taylor Swift (for the third time!)

Following a brief awards speech, a wide angle of Pitbull is shown where he says the awards show equivalent of “Show’s over, go home!”

I’ll be back in a few minutes with some final thoughts.

Final Thoughts: The American Music Awards are to the Grammys what the Golden Globes are to the Oscars, but instead of getting the boozy dinner party where someone will eventually say something stupid, we got a fairly unmemorable show full of good, but not great performances. Luckily, they roped in Justin Timberlake by tossing him two awards and he provided the sort of jolt that only a star who knows he’s too big for this show can provide. Pitbull was kind of a mess as a host, as his style seemed to be the antithesis of everything you want in a host, something notable in the way that a faceless voice-over got the honor and privilege of playing the show’s traffic cop. Toss in some nonsensical category distinctions and the fact that the people think that Taylor Swift had three years of being the best and biggest pop star on earth and you can see why this show tends to fall behind the Grammys (for prestige) and the VMA’s (for big moments and train wreck potential) in the public consciousness.

I believe the next time I’ll be liveblogging an awards ceremony like this will be next year as award season kicks into gear with the Golden Globes. In the meantime I’ll have some reviews through the next couple of weeks followed by some opinion pieces as the entertainment machine slows down into it’s holiday dormancy.

Have a great week, a happy Thanksgiving, and I look forward to the next time we get to do this!